OSCE At 45: A New Spirit of Helsinki

Clemens Koja
Florian Raunig
Publication type
Policy Paper

Austria assumed the Chairmanship of the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2017, at a time when challenges to peace and security were manifold. These challenges were exacerbated by a striking erosion of trust among its 57 participating States, which had to deal with intensifying contemporary security challenges in the OSCE Region. The spirit of genuine dialogue, constructive co-operation and sustainable confidence-building were reduced to mere principles on paper, eschewed in practice. As a traditional bridge-builder, Austria, therefore, focused its efforts to renew the “Spirit of Helsinki,” in the hopes that the establishment of common ground and a process of consensual decision-making would enhance security in the OSCE area. First, the Austrian Chairmanship managed to maintain the OSCE’s mandate to prevent and defuse conflict through the established negotiating formats, while paying particular attention to alleviating the humanitarian consequences of conflict. The Chairmanship increased and intensified technical capacities and monitoring activities for the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine—as evidenced by an early extension of the SMM’s mandate and its budget. Second, Austria put particular emphasis on renewing open and frank dialogue among executive structures and participating States by creating shared ownership over the Organization, engaging in more informal talks, and highlighting the positive impact of the OSCE on-the-ground. This emphasis also facilitated the appointments to all four senior positions: the Secretary General as well as the heads of its three autonomous institutions, the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM), the Representative on Media Freedom (RFOM), and the Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). Third, the Austrian Chairmanship aimed to address common challenges by locating areas of potential consensus, such as positions on violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism (VERLT), and going beyond traditional means of communication, negotiation and diplomacy, especially in developing the new “Structured Dialogue” on political-military issues with senior representatives from capitals. Overall, the Austrian Chairmanship concentrated its efforts to engage fully with the OSCE’s toolbox to prevent escalation and conflict in the OSCE area and establish the common security of all participating States.


About the Authors

Amb. Clemens Koja is an Austrian diplomat with over 29 years of professional experience in the Austrian Foreign Service. Since 2018, Koja has served as Head of the OSCE Mission to Skopje. Previously, he served as the Permanent Representative of Austria to the OSCE in Vienna (2017), Austria’s Ambassador in Belgrade (2008-12) and Ljubljana (2012-16), Deputy Head of the Austrian Embassy in Madrid (2000-2003), and Director of the Southern European Department in the Austrian Foreign Ministry (2003-2008). Koja received his doctorate degree in law from the Universities of Salzburg and Vienna and holds a master’s degree in Catholic theology.

Amb. Florian Raunig is an Austrian diplomat, well-versed in multilateral diplomacy. Since 2018, Raunig has served as the Permanent Representative of Austria to the OSCE in Vienna. Previously, Raunig served as Head of the Task Force of the Austrian Chairmanship of the OSCE (2017), Austria’s Ambassador in Montenegro (2007-2009) and Albania (2009-2013), and as the Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania (2013-2016). After first joining the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2002, Raunig served in Vienna and Ljubljana, the Austrian Development Agency in Vienna, and the Austrian Embassy in Montenegro. Raunig studied political science, philosophy, and law at the University of Vienna.

Amb. Christian Strohal is an Austrian diplomat with an extensive career in multilateral work. Previously, Strohal served as the Special Representative of the Austrian Chairmanship of the OSCE (2017), the Permanent Representative of Austria to the OSCE in Vienna (2013-2016), Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations in Geneva (2008-2013), and Vice-President of the UN Human Rights Council. Prior to that, Strohal served as the Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the OSCE (2003- 2008) and Austria’s Ambassador in Luxemburg (2000-2003). Strohal received his doctorate degree in law from the University of Vienna in 1975 and is a Non-Resident Fellow at LISD.

Wolfgang F. Danspeckgruber is the Founding Director of the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination at Princeton University, LISD. He is also the founder and chair of the Liechtenstein Colloquium on European and International Affairs, LCM, a private international diplomacy forum. Danspeckgruber served as an advisor to the Austrian Chairmanship of the OSCE (2017), Austria’s delegation to the UN Security Council (2008-2010), and the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the UN. Danspeckgruber received his education at the Universities of Linz and Vienna, (ML; DLaws) and the University of Geneva (PhD).

Central Asia,
Cyber Security,
Gender Equality,
Human Dimension Implementation Meeting,
South-East Europe,
Structured Dialogue,
Transdniestrian Settlement Process,
Western Balkans